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Johnson on Martinsville pole, in position to take charge

October 26, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Jimmie Johnson has turned a pole win into a race win nine times in his career. (Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jimmie Johnson made his move at Martinsville.

With a lap at 97.598 mph in Friday afternoon's time trials at the .526-mile short track, Johnson won the pole for Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500, the seventh race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Martinsville

Race Lineup
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.B. Vickers97.53319.415
3.Ky. Busch97.42719.436
4.J. Burton97.39219.443
5.D. Hamlin97.38219.445
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
5. D. Hamlin 97.382 19.445
6. M. Kenseth 97.272 19.467
7. T. Stewart 97.257 19.470
8. C. Bowyer 97.247 19.472
11.J. Gordon 96.968 19.528
12. M. Truex Jr. 96.964 19.529
13. K. Harvick96.959 19.530
15.K. Kahne 96.869 19.548
20. Dale Jr. 96.716 19.579
30.G. Biffle 96.112 19.702
32. B. Keselowski 96.015 19.722

Johnson will start 31 positions ahead of Chase leader Brad Keselowski, who qualified 32nd at 96.015 mph. In winning his third Coors Light Pole Award at Martinsville, Johnson edged Brian Vickers (97.533 mph) by .013 seconds for the top starting spot.

* Out Front with Miss Coors Light: Rachel and Jimmie

Kyle Busch (97.427 mph) qualified third, followed by Jeff Burton (97.392 mph) and Denny Hamlin (97.382 mph). Chase drivers Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer secured the sixth through eighth positions, respectively.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Martinsville, entered the weekend second in the standings, seven points behind Keselowski. Hamlin is 20 behind with four races left in the Chase. The last time Johnson started from the pole at Martinsville, on Oct. 19, 2008, he won the race.

Johnson qualified 22nd for the spring race at Martinsville and was determined to remedy that mediocre performance.

"After qualifying as poorly as I did in the spring, I focused on these two laps pretty heavily and wanted to make sure I did my job," Johnson said. "We just hit it [Friday], from the car standpoint, from my standpoint of driving the race track. We got it right [Friday]."

Keselowski has qualified 22nd, 20th and 25th for the past three Chase races but consistently has been able to work his way to the front. That might be difficult to do at Martinsville, where close-quarters racing is the norm and passing is difficult.

"The tough position there is, once we get single-file and we're about 10 laps into the show, the leaders are [caught up] to the 43rd-place car," Johnson said. "You've got to go, and everybody around you has that same mentality, too, so it can be pretty cutthroat back there."

Keselowski, however, can find consolation in his recent performances and the knowledge that his No. 2 Dodge has been performing substantially better in race setup than in qualifying trim.

"I can tell you, I don't enjoy qualifying like crap," Keselowski said. "That's not what I come to the race track to do. But it's been the course, as of late, and you take solace in the fact that, in the part that matters, the actual racing, my team has done a great job preparing excellent cars and executing on all levels.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Jimmie Johnson earned his 28th NSCS pole in his 396th start.
• Jimmie Johnson's last pole was at Chicagoland in September (five starts ago).
• Jimmie Johnson won his third pole of 2012.
• Jimmie Johnson captured his second pole at Martinsville.
• Jimmie Johnson now has 11 career Chase poles, most of all drivers.
• Of the 11 Chase races that have been won from the pole, six were by Johnson.
• Jimmie Johnson's average finish at Martinsville during the Chase is 2.0.
• Hendrick Motorsports won its 188th Cup Series pole.
• Hendrick Motorsports took home its 10th pole of 2012, most of all teams.
• Hendrick Motorsports Won the pole for the sixth time in the last eight races (all four drivers have at least one pole in the last eight races).
• Hendrick Motorsports captured its 16th Martinsville pole, most of all teams.
• Chevrolet won the pole at Martinsville for the 51st time.
• Chevrolet garnered its 13th pole of the 2012 season.
• Brian Vickers (second) will have his best Martinsville start in his 15th start there, previous best start was sixth in April in the No. 55 car.
• Kyle Busch (third) will also have his best Martinsville start in his 16th career appearance there, previous best start was fourth in March 2009.
• Jeff Burton (fourth) earned his best starting position of the season, previous best was sixth at Bristol in August when time trials were canceled.
• Denny Hamlin (fifth) captured his eighth top-five start in 15 races at Martinsville including four of the past five times there.
• Brad Keselowski (32nd) will have his worst starting position of the season, leads the Chase points standings by seven over Jimmie Johnson.
• Two drivers failed to qualify; Mike Bliss in the No. 19 car and J.J. Yeley in the No. 37 car.

"You try to focus on what you have that's going right, and that's what we have that's going right."